The components of kin competition

J. David Van Dyken

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations


It is well known that competition among kin alters the rate and often the direction of evolution in subdivided populations. Yet much remains unclear about the ecological and demographic causes of kin competition, or what role life cycle plays in promoting or ameliorating its effects. Using the multilevel Price equation, I derive a general equation for evolution in structured populations under an arbitrary intensity of kin competition. This equation partitions the effects of selection and demography, and recovers numerous previous models as special cases. I quantify the degree of kin competition, α, which explicitly depends on life cycle. I show how life cycle and demographic assumptions can be incorporated into kin selection models via α, revealing life cycles that are more or less permissive of altruism. As an example, I give closed-form results for Hamilton's rule in a three-stage life cycle. Although results are sensitive to life cycle in general, I identify three demographic conditions that give life cycle invariant results. Under the infinite island model, α is a function of the scale of density regulation and dispersal rate, effectively disentangling these two phenomena. Population viscosity per se does not impede kin selection.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2840-2854
Number of pages15
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • Altruism
  • Density dependence
  • Dispersal
  • Hard selection
  • Kin selection
  • Population viscosity
  • Price equation
  • Scale of competition
  • Soft selection
  • Subdivided populations

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Genetics
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)


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